discipline your child

10 Ways to Discipline Your Child

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Joe, a Play of the Day subscriber, wrote us saying, “Years ago, my sister (a department head at Harvard University) shared with me one of the most valuable tools I have for disciplining my 8-year-old daughter. Whatever the discipline is (no TV, no bike, etc.), I never say how long it will be for. I just tell her when I feel she deserves it, the discipline will be over. So, I don’t say, ‘No bike for a month’, and after a week, feel bad and give it back. I just say, ‘No bike. You’ll get it back when I think you deserve it.’ This works great for me and I also have no guilt to deal with when I calm down.” Great advice, Joe!

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For more great insights like these, here are 10 ways to discipline your child:

1. The Do-Over

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Everybody deserves a second chance, right? If your child has shown a lack of respect in some way, give them the option of a “do-over.” Send them out of the room, and have them start all over again. It gives them practice in treating others well.

2. Silence is Golden

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Sometimes it is hurtful words or it could be a loudness that disturbs the peace. Taking away the privilege to talk for a certain amount of time will calm them down and give them time to think.

3. Choose Your Battles

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Every single issue does not need to be a war. [Tweet This] If you are constantly at odds with your child, they will eventually tune you out. Whether it is an outfit you don’t like, coming in a couple minutes after curfew, or other things small, it may be best to let it pass. Choose wisely which issues are important enough to tackle.

4. Take a Breather

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Sometimes we all need a “breather.” When voices start to get raised, continuing on that path will only worsen the matter. Send them to their room and create a cooling off period. Then approach them when everyone has calmed down, particularly you.

5. Use the Rod Rarely

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“Spare the rod, spoil the child.” We all know this ancient wisdom, but it must be used with caution. Don’t do it in anger. It can be tough at times, but always keep your composure. If need be, take a walk before engaging. Have them sit on their bed and wait. Sometimes the waiting is worse than the actual spanking.

6. Natural Consequences

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There is a school project your child has known about for 2 weeks. It is the night before it is due and she is in a panic. You warned her a week ago not to wait until the last moment, but it happened anyway. She is now pleading for you to assist her. Do not help her and let her experience the result of her actions. The anxiety, loss of sleep, and bad grade will teach her to make better decisions next time.

7. The Take Away

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Every child has something near and dear to them. It is not underhanded for that item to come into play, if needed. Favorite stuffed animals, cell phones, gaming devices, etc. can all be used to your benefit. If your warnings have fallen on deaf ears, take an item away for a time and let your child once again learn that actions have consequences.

8. Give Away for Good

For the most severe and perhaps repeat offenses, there is the giveaway. Take one of their favorite things and give it to Salvation Army or Good Will. Have them physically hand it over.

9. Grounding

Teach them that when we cross set boundaries or break laws we lose freedoms. It may not be easy to tell your big, brown-eyed daughter she can’t go to the movies with her friends or to the school dance. Be strong and hold the line.

10. Prevention

Become a student of your child and their world. Then use insight in guiding them before problems occur. Talk openly with your child on a daily basis. Reward the many great things they do. Support them with lots of love when they hit the mark and when they don’t. Building a high level of trust and understanding with your child will prevent a great deal of issues that would require a discipline tactic.

Sound Off

What are some ways you have disciplined your kids?


  • Justin Holland

    How do you recommend tapering back or “tweaking” these to be appropriate and effective with 2-4 yr olds?

    • skydvrboy

      I wouldn’t change them a bit for a 2-4 year old. If you use these techniques diligently with your 2-4 year olds, you will reap the rewards when they are teenagers. If you “taper them back” with your 2-4 year old, you will have a problem on your hands in 10 years.

  • Jack777

    I am watching my kids raise theirs now, and seeing them come to use some of the techniques they experienced…not because they liked them but because they have come to see value in the principles being taught.
    First, parenting is about relationship, so I tried to discipline in a context of love. I used (and still use) a phrase I learned form someone else, “I love you, I like you, and I am proud to be your dad”. This allowed me to always say “I love you”, no matter what…even if I had reason to follow with ” I don’t like you very much right now”. or “I am not real proud right now”. Then we could address items in need of change.
    It was important, early on, to have them respond to my spoken words. When they were small I used a few simple words, “listen” and “obey” to cut through any whining and inattention. First, they were not always within reach…like running toward the street. Second, and more important as they grew, there will be a time when physical interdiction is not possible, earlier for your wife than for you. It is important to teach that respect is more powerful than force…that you do not get to have your way just because you are bigger/stronger/meaner, etc.
    I wanted to teach that the older you are, the more responsibility you must accept. There is no substitute for accountability…we all will always be accountable to someone, ultimately to the Father Himself. Starting as early as two or three, I could verbalize on their birthdays that they had passed into increased accountability…that the consequences had officially increased by an increment. One bean for each year of life if they don’t like beans. One stroke with the rod for each year of life when spankings were called for. This subject deserves its own address.
    Parenting is about instruction in a context of loving acceptance. When the view becomes cloudy or the burden large, refer again to God’s methods and point of view toward us. Even those of us who say we are trying screw up often enough, never mind those who are determined to be rebellious. He still has the ability to not grow weary of doing good because His resources are sufficient for the need…so go there when you feel needy.
    Try never to spank for a first offense. Childishness includes not knowing any better.
    I tried to use the first “event” as a teaching opportunity…use it to explain the right way and state that the next time they will know better. After that instruction, accountability increases to address disobedience, because they need to remember the instruction.
    With respect to spanking, itself…becoming angry and wailing on your kid until you are tired is defined as child abuse and has consequences to you and your family as well as to your child…accountability, again. Spanking is one tool in the box to emphasize instruction, emerging from grief rather than anger. As with beans, I defined a spanking for my boy and two girls as one stroke of the rod for each year of life. That allowed everybody to know what it costs to be wrong, (fifteen yards), and allowed me to go from correction to restoration of the relationship sooner… the very important final step in the correction event. With the lesson taught and, in some degree learned, it is essential to hug the tears away and physically communicate your love and acceptance before you work out any required reparation to others. My son, the oldest, had his last spanking at nine, after two years without the need for one. In the middle of the nine strokes I told him I was not having any fun and asked if this could be the last one. He agreed and it was.The younger kids learned from their siblings’ mistakes and needed even fewer spankings.
    My son has three boys. When I encouraged him to get started with the accountability exercise, (wife not fully convinced at first), I asked him if he was traumatized by his upbringing. He responded that he did not even remember being spanked. There is more to say, but this has been long enough…Blessings in your efforts.

  • Matt62581

    I caution against number 8, particularly thr charity part. My belief is that forcing a child to give to charity as a punishment will lead them to associate charity with negative feelings. We want to teach our kids to give lovingly and willingly. Charity is an act of love, not punishment.

    Instead we should have them throw the item away, or give it to the parent. The parent can then discretely donate the item. The charity will still benefit, the child will learn, and there are no negative associations with charity

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